Pensioners Thrive With Pets: Why Seniors Should Be ‘Prescribed’ A Dog

There might be a no-pill solution for pensioners to live longer, and that no-pill solution is a pet. Researchers concluded that doctors should “prescribe” dogs to pensioners to help them stay more active in their retirement and thus prolong their life.

A study found that pensioners who own a dog are more active throughout the day than those without. In such a way, owning a furball of happiness not only promotes better and longer life, but also helps people stay fit.

According to the study cited by the Daily Mail, dog owners over the age of 65 complete, on average, an extra 22 minutes of daily activity compared to pensioners without dogs. That’s 154 minutes of moderate exercise per week.

That perfectly fits the World Health Organization’s recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. As many as 43 pensioners with and without dogs took part in the study, which took place in the English counties of Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, and Cambridgeshire.

Pensioners who own a dog took 10,030 steps a day compared to a little more than 7,000 for non-dog owners. The participants wore an activity monitor to count the number of daily steps.

The study also found that dog owners spent around 120 minutes a day walking — that’s nearly 30 minutes more than pensioners without dogs. A pensioner who owns a dog is thus more likely to be healthier and more active, as sometimes they require people to sweat in order to catch them when they run around, refusing to go home!

Moreover, the study also showed that seniors with dogs had fewer periods of sitting down compared to those without dogs. That means not only walking with a dog outside, but also being more or less active throughout the day at home: feeding the dog, cleaning after the dog, and playing with it.

New research suggests that pensioners and seniors thrive with a dog for company.

The size of the dog doesn’t seem to play much of a role in encouraging seniors to walk more – unless, of course, the size of the dog directly corresponds to the activity demands of the dog. The study included dogs of all sizes: 33 percent small, 38 percent medium, and 30 percent large.

As long as the dog is used to walking outside when nature calls, a pensioner who owns the dog is more likely to be more active and healthier than those without dogs.

Doctors prescribing dogs to pensioners could thus “improve their prospects for a better quality of life, improved or maintained cognition, and perhaps, even overall longevity,” according to Nancy Gee, co-author of the study.

And owning a dog doesn’t necessarily have to put a strain on the wallets of pensioners, as there’s a charity that provides on-going monthly support with pet food costs in exchange for older adults over 60-years-old taking home dogs from shelters.

The charity is called Give a Dog a Bone and an Animal a Home and helps those who are willing to take a dog into their home, but who would struggle to afford to care for a dog.

Seniors and the elderly who have a dog to look after are thought to be in better health and more likely to get the recommended amount of daily exercise.

The charity states on its website that “pets can have a positive effect on the well being of their over 60s owners,” and the study above seems to have just confirmed that.

STV News did an investigation into how the charity works, and according to Moira Clark, a 76-year-old pensioner and grandmother, the charity gives her “£30 [approximately $38] a month for food and his pet insurance.”

“I’m an old age pensioner without a lot of money. They give me £30 a month for food and his pet insurance.”

Bottom line: To make a pensioner less lonely, more active, healthier and prolong their life, prescribe them a dog! And caring for the pet doesn’t even have to put undue strain on the monthly budget.

[Featured Image by Angela Rohde/Shutterstock]